Monday Archives: Undescribed Soft Coral Native to Miami Produces High Quantities of Deadly Organic Compound Palytoxin

Undescribed fluorescent Palythoa species photographed along the shoreline of PortMiami. We are happy to announce the publication of a scientific paper analyzing the presence and potency of palytoxin (PLTX) in Palythoa spp. and Zoanthus spp. Zoantharians conducted by the Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography and Coral Biome in Marseilles, France. PLTX is one of the most potent toxins known on the planet. It is an extremely large and complex organic compound that has been described by biochemists as the ‘Mt. Everest of organic synthesis’. An organism that naturally produces large amounts of PLTX is of great importance for research scientists to better understand its pharmacology. PLTX has been found to have toxic effects on head and neck tumors, and therefore warrants further pharmaceutical investigation. Initially, this compound was blue-prospected in Hawaii where native Hawaiian people used the the mucous of Palythoa found in a very specific (and taboo) tide pool (known as limu-make-o-Hana, the ‘seaweed of death of Hana’) to coat their spear points before battle. So taboo was this tide pool for outsiders, that when scientists sampled the Palythoa in 1961, they found their lab burned to the ground on the same day. A reminder to scientists to respect native wisdom, culture, and practices when performing science on other cultures’ land! In this paper we found that an undescribed species (Palythoa aff. clavata) we sampled from PortMiami in 2012 was found to have five times the concentration of the notorious Hawaiian species Palythoa toxica. The experiment also tried to determine whether PLTX was produced by symbiotic microbial symbionts / zooxanthellae, or by the organism itself. Highest concentrations of PLTX were found within the tissue itself, and isolated cultures of zooxanthellae from these polyps failed to produce PLTX in the laboratory. This suggests, but does not confirm, that the Palythoa polyps themselves are producing this toxin. While the mechanism of its biosynthesis remains unknown, it highlights how Miami’s urban marine environs hold important scientific discoveries still waiting to be uncovered. Read the paper – ‘Symbiodiniaceae diversity and characterization of palytoxin in various zoantharians (Anthozoa, Hexacorallia)’ – below: Palythoa-Paper-Sawelew-et-al-2022 Tags: Coral Morphologic, Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography, Palythoa, Palytoxin, Zoanthus This entry was posted on Thursday, April 21st, 2022 at 3:00 pm and is filed under Miami, Natural History, Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Coral Morphologic @ Aspen Ideas: Climate

Miami aka Coral City. Coral Morphologic will be proudly representing Miami’s underwater denizens at the inaugural Aspen Ideas: Climate conference, May 9-12 with a nightly showing of our film Coral City Fluorotour on the New World Center’s wallcast and speaking on the panel “The Ocean is a Climate Superhero.” The morning of Wednesday, May 11th Colin will join Swati Thiyagarajan and Barton Seaver in conversation on how the ocean is poised to be a hero in the fight against climate change, with natural systems that help undo the damage human activity has caused. Wallcast showings of Coral City Fluorotour follow the evening speaking sessions, beginning at 8pm, and are free and open to the public. For more information, programming, and to obtain passes, please visit A still from Coral City Fluorotour. Fluorescent staghorn coral at the Coral City Camera site. Tags: Aspen Ideas: Climate, Coral City, Coral City Fluorotour, Coral Morphologic, Miami Beach, New World Center, New World Symphony, The Aspen Institute This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 26th, 2022 at 6:10 pm and is filed under Art, Live, Miami, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Coral City Fluorotour

We are proud to present Coral City Flourotour, our first short film in 3 years, and our first in-ocean filming project using techniques developed in the CM lab / studio

Miami’s Pioneering Urban Brain Coral at the Frontier of Marine Science

Symmetrical Brain Corals (Pseuododiploria strigosa) emersed during low tide along the shoreline of PortMiami. For more than a decade, Coral Morphologic has sought to shine a spotlight on Miami’s intertidal urban corals and their potential scientific value. These surprisingly resilient corals appear to avoid bleaching and stem disease better than their conspecifics offshore on the natural reefs. Over the past two years we have been working with scientists at NOAA to explain these differences using molecular lab analysis of tissue samples collected in the field. That work finally culminated in ‘Molecular Mechanisms of Coral Persistence Within Highly Urbanized Locations in the Port of Miami, Florida‘ published in the research journal Frontiers in Marine Science. We found that the Symmetrical Brain Corals (Pseuododiploria strigosa) living in the urban environment (specifically alongside MacArthur Causeway and Star Island in Miami) were predominantly colonized by the Durusdinium sp. strain of symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) that provides the coral with photosynthetic energy during daylight hours. Durusdinium is known to be a heat-tolerant genus of zooxanthellae, and has long been investigated by scientists seeking to create bleaching-resistant ‘super corals’. However, until this study, the Symmetrical Brain Coral had rarely been observed hosting this species of zooxanthellae elsewhere in the region, making these observations here in Miami quite remarkable. Beyond the helpful symbionts, the Symmetrical Brain Corals living in the urban environment were also found to be producing proteins and enzymes known to identify and digest pathogenic invaders. These proteins could be a two-fold benefit to the coral since disease-causing microbes can be digested as food before they can infect the coral. The urban marine environments around Miami often have high concentrations of phytoplankton and turbidity in the water, along with high bacterial concentrations that frequently require ‘no swim’ public health advisories. The ability to capture and extract more energy from food could enhance its health and provide sustenance during times of bleaching. These findings from a single species of urban coral in Miami’s coastal environment suggest further investigation is warranted in the variety of other reef-building species that have self-recruited to the City’s concrete and riprap shorelines. It also demonstrates how the human-made hydrogeologic conditions around PortMiami serves as an evolutionary gauntlet selecting for corals better adapted for life in the Anthropocene. Read the paper below: fmars-08-695236 Tags: Coral Morphologic, Frontiers in Marine Science, NOAA, PortMiami, Super Coral, Super Corals, urban coral, urban corals This entry was posted on Sunday, July 25th, 2021 at 4:59 pm and is filed under Miami, Natural History, Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

‘Coral City Camera’ Launch Party @ PAMM

Join us Thursday, February 6th as we launch the Coral City Camera, our publicly accessible 360-degree livestream of a thriving, urban coral reef premiering at the Pérez Art Museum Miami from a floating billboard in Biscayne Bay. Admission is free and open to the public as part of PAMM’s First Free Thursdays series. Coral City Camera is part of WATERPROOF, an arts program organized by BFI and Bridge Initiative. In conjunction with the floating livestream, National Geographic Explorer Alizé Carrère will moderate a panel discussion featuring NOAA scientist Dr. Ian Enochs, Coral Morphologic’s Colin Foord, and Miami Beach’s environment & sustainability director Elizabeth Wheaton. The night continues on the terrace with a DJ set by Romulo Del Castillo. See you there, Miami! Tags: Coral City Camera, Coral Morphologic, PAMM This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 21st, 2020 at 1:03 am and is filed under Installation, Miami. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.